Weight Loss Tactics: So What's a Hungry Athlete to Do?
Drugs are not the answer. For the past 20 years, no truly successful weight-loss drugs have been developed and none are in sight in the near future. Drugs that regulate appetite also impact many other regulatory centers and create undesired side effects. Hence, we need to learn how to manage the obesity problem at its roots—and that means preventing excessive fat gain in the first place, starting in childhood. Here are a few tips on how to do that:
- You can reduce your food intake by using your imagination. That is, if you imagine eating a food, let's say, ice cream, you can end up eating less of it.
- Technology offers a glimmer of hope in the battle of the bulge. A free application for iPhones called Lose It! has created a thriving weight loss community, as measured by 7.5 million free app downloads since October 2010. The web version, www.LoseIt.com, is just as popular. LoseIt! members can conveniently and easily track their food and calorie intake.
- Lose It! includes a social network. Dieters seem to prefer online support from people they do not know, as opposed to involving their family and friends with their dieting progress (or lack there of). LoseIt!'s social groups are created according to goals. Dieters can easily (and anonymously) connect with and get support from others with similar goals. In fact, the best predictor of weight loss success with LoseIt! is having three or more Lose It! buddies.
- Food advertisements are designed to trigger certain pleasure centers. (For example, McDonald's is associated with happiness.) We now need to learn how to advertise healthy foods. The baby carrot campaign to "eat 'em like junk food" has boosted sales 10 percent—including a new demand for baby carrots in school vending machines.
- We can change our brain circuits by substituting food with another stimuli, such as exercise. Exercise does more than burn calories to control weight; exercise changes the reward systems in the brain.
- Exercise supports self-control. That is, people who exercise have greater control over what they eat. They also have more control over sticking with their exercise program. Successful exercisers are able to make exercise a habit, and not a choice. Having one less decision to make bolsters their mental resources so they can cope better overall.
A Final Thought
Somehow we need to change the perception that eating supermarket foods loaded with sugar, salt, and saturated fats gives us satisfaction. A few years ago, we changed the perception that smoking is satisfying. Parents stopped smoking when kids came home and said, "Mom, Dad, please don't smoke." Today, we need kids to start saying "Mom, Dad, please don't take me to McDonald's." Will that day ever come?
Nancy Clark, MS RD CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels casual and competitive athletes at her private practice at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts (617-383-6100). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Food Guide for Marathoners, and Cyclist's Food Guide are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com. Also see www.sportsnutritionworkshop.comfor information about her online workshop.